Menopause arrives too early for some women and stays way beyond its welcome for others. This impolite guest carries a variety of symptoms including low libido, fatigue, weight gain and hot flashes.
For years, hormone replacement therapy was routinely used to treat menopausal symptoms. In the early 2000’s, large clinical studies showed possible health hazards, but new studies suggest this may not be the case.
Although menopause and the hormone troubles that come with it seem like taboo topics of discussion, Dr. James Mirabile of Mirabile M.D. Beauty, Health and Wellness and author of Be Healthy, Vibrant and Sexy! says that they should be talked about openly.
“No one really educates women about what is going to happen to their bodies after menopause,” he says. “Their symptoms often lead to a depression diagnosis when that isn’t the case at all.” Here’s what Mirabile has to say about hormone therapy.
Hormones can be delivered in various forms including creams, gels, vaginal rings, tablets and skin patches. Synthetic therapy is made from a blend of hormones isolated from a pregnant horse’s urine, while bioidentical hormones are made from plants specifically compounded to match the hormones women make in their bodies. “It’s basically identical to what your body has made for 50 years,” Mirabile says of the bioidentical kind.
Bioidentical and synthetic hormones have similar benefits. Hormone replacement therapy can ease vaginal symptoms of menopause, such as dryness, itching, burning and discomfort with intercourse. Therapy also helps with hot flashes, low libido, night sweats and protection against osteoporosis.
In addition, the combination of estrogen and progesterone therapy might reduce the risk of colon cancer. Data collected by Mayo Clinic also suggests that estrogen can decrease the risk of heart disease when taken early in the postmenopausal years.
Although hormone therapy has its benefits, it comes with risks. In a large clinical trial by the Women’s Health Initiative, a combination estrogen-
progestin pill increased the risk of certain serious conditions like heart disease, blood clots, breast cancer and stroke. Later studies have shown that risks vary depending on age, dosage and other health factors like genetics and tendency for cardiovascular issues.
Mirabile stresses that one size does not fit all, and treatments should be tailored to each person and re-evaluated every so often. “Monitoring patients is extremely important,” he says. “Everyone is different.”
Is It for You?
For healthy women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms, most experts agree that the benefits of hormone therapy replacement outweigh any risks.
If you’re still unsure if hormone replacement therapy is the right choice for you, talk with your doctor. Individual programs vary, and your own personal history will help determine your path.